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With 2016 coming to a close, Currents wanted to reflect on this year’s amazing innovations at universities around the world. Here are our favorites.

By Elisa Wiseman , Laura Stall

Pizza Withdrawal

Xavier University wanted to provide hungry students with a late-night option on par with its award-winning food services, so the Ohio institution purchased a European-made ATM, designed to vend hot 12-inch pizzas 24/7 for as little as $9. Students can choose a simple cheese pie or a specialty pizza, such as Buffalo chicken or margherita. The Pizza ATM, the first on a North American campus, is stocked with up to 70 pizzas daily, made in-house at Xavier's Hoff Dining Commons. (Photo: Paline LLC)

Heady Research

University of Washington engineers say football helmets, essentially hard outer shells with foam padding, haven't improved much in decades. Given the high rate of concussions among players, the engineers partnered with neurosurgeons to reimagine the head gear. Through UW's innovation incubator, the researchers founded Vicis, a company trying to revolutionize America's favorite sport with the unique structural system and tailored fit of its Zero1 helmet. A donor has outfitted UW's team with the $1,500 helmets for the product's inaugural season. (Photo: VICIS)

Donors in Outer Space

Well, sort of. Microchips engraved with the names of donors to the University of Alberta's space exploration program will be launched into the Earth's orbit aboard a miniature satellite on December 30, 2016. The AlbertaSat program held a 24-hour matching-gift challenge that raised $25,000 to help fund development of the Canadian university's first cube satellite. Approximately the size of a loaf of bread, the instrument will join 49 other cube satellites in the QB50 international mission of atmospheric research. (Photo: Albertasat)

First-Name Basics

Stanford University students have a move-in day tradition of welcoming freshmen by name. But what if they're not sure how to pronounce a name? In 2016, NameCoach software, developed by Stanford graduate students, enabled incoming students to record the correct pronunciation of their name and indicate their preferred gender pronoun. The product is marketed to educational institutions primarily for milestones, such as commencement and the first day of class, where an incorrect pronunciation can tarnish the moment. (Photo: Namecoach)

I Can Cedar Clearly Now

Wood has been a versatile building material for centuries. Thanks to University of Maryland researchers, wood could soon be used for windows. No, not for the window frames but as a replacement for the glass. Engineers found that boiling wood in water, sodium hydroxide, and other chemicals and then fortifying it with epoxy made the wood stronger and transparent. As a natural insulator, wood could prove to be a superior material for managing indoor temperatures. (Photo: Maryland Nanocenter)

About the Authors Elisa Wiseman

Elisa Wiseman was a summer 2016 editorial intern for Currents.

Laura Stall

Laura Stall was a fall 2016 Currents editorial intern.




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